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Seborrheic eczema is a very common skin condition. It is also known as seborrheic dermatitis. When infants develop this condition, it is known as cradle cap.
Seborrheic eczema is thought to have two chief causes. The first is overproduction of oil by the skin. The second is a yeast known as malassezia. It is found naturally in the skin’s oils and is believed to act as an irritant to those with the condition.
Although there is no cure, learning to recognize and eliminate triggers and developing a good skin care routine can help you manage the condition.
Seborrheic eczema tends to develop in oily areas of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, it most often affects the scalp (Mayo). Other commonly affected areas are:
Doctors are not sure why some people develop seborrheic eczema, while others do not. It does appear that your risk of developing it increases if one or more close family members also have the condition.
Other factors thought to increase risk include:
Finally, certain serious medical conditions may make it more likely that you will develop the skin condition. If you have had a stroke, suffer from HIV or Parkinson’s, or have sustained a head injury, you may have a greater likelihood of having seborrheic eczema.
The good news is that the condition does not lead to significant health problems. However, suffering from this condition may be embarrassing. This is likely in part because of the misunderstandings about seborrheic eczema.
For instance, many people fear they can “catch” it or believe the person affected does not have good hygiene. There are various measures that can make the skin issue less noticeable. This may help you feel less self-conscious.
Dandruff shampoos are frequently used to treat seborrheic eczema on the scalp. You will usually need to use the product daily for optimal results. Follow all usage instructions on the bottle exactly. According to the Mayo Clinic, alternating between shampoos with different active ingredients may help if it seems like one stops working as well over time (Mayo).
Addition skin care measures that may help you manage this kind of eczema include:
For infants with cradle cap, try the following daily routine:
If it is difficult to loosen and wash off scales, massage your baby’s scalp with mineral or olive oil before shampooing.
Your child’s doctor may recommend medicated shampoo or lotion for severe or persistent cradle cap.
Not all cases of seborrheic eczema can be managed solely through the use of over-the-counter dandruff shampoos. Oral medications, prescription shampoos, and medicinal creams and gels for the scalp and other areas of the body can be used for severe symptoms and more serious cases.
In general, a visit to the physician may be needed if:
People who have seborrheic eczema will deal with it on some level for the rest of their lives. You may go through extended periods where there are little to no symptoms. You will also likely experience “flare-ups,” when symptoms become more severe.
Over time, though, many people who have seborrheic eczema will figure out a skin care routine (possibly combined with medications) that works for them and minimizes the impact the condition has on their day-to-day lives.
Cradle cap usually goes away on its own in a few months.
Written by: Krista O'Connell
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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